Tuesday, 29 November 2016

All Irish Sour Beers Ranked - December 2016

...by Utappd users.

Click on any heading to sort by that column.

Boundary BrewingChloe Dancer4.2177431
YellowBelly BeerCastaway4.15132114
YellowBelly BeerJack Bauer's Power Shower Sour4.0681844
YellowBelly BeerFor Whom the Sour Trolls4.0518953
Otterbank Brewing Co.Beta Barrel 13.9852917
Boundary BrewingSilver Lining3.9225
Boundary BrewingA Berliner Vice: Derek3.9062516
Galway Bay BreweryGodspeed3.89764254
YellowBelly BeerClub Tropicana3.87534
Hope BeerPeach And Blueberry Sour3.8595973
Kinnegar BrewingWalla Walla3.8453697
Galway Bay BreweryThe Eternalist3.84498229
Boundary BrewingA Berliner Vice #4 - Nearly Nilsson3.8421119
Metalman BrewingSpicy Cucumber And Fruit Sour3.8333315
Kinnegar BrewingSour Grapes3.8176585
Kinnegar BrewingHigh Glen3.81719160
YellowBelly BeerGreat For the Town3.81376149
Trouble BrewingWeisse City3.8073861
Galway Bay BreweryMaybe Next Monday3.78804276
Boundary BrewingA Berliner Vice #23.7870427
Kinnegar BrewingGeuzberry3.7839581
Brown Paper Bag ProjectAul Bruin Bagger3.76042240
Rascals Brewing CoProject Sour: #1 the Hoppy One3.7539763
Boundary BrewingMilk Agitator3.741861
Brown Paper Bag ProjectGöse3.7202484
O'Hara's BreweryWild Side3.687516
Galway Bay BreweryBrigid/Ceasefire Rhubarb Sloe3.66888376
Boundary BrewingPush & Pull: Funkacidic3.6666724
Boundary BrewingSour Bake3.6562532
The White HagThe Púca3.65031642
Metalman BrewingRaspberry Chilli Sour3.6304323
Rascals Brewing CoProject Sour #3: Forest Fruit Sour3.62534
Rascals Brewing CoProject Sour #2: Seriously Saison3.6220943
The Open Gate BreweryDamson Plum Sour3.6093816
Metalman BrewingRazzbeer3.5882434
Galway Bay BrewerySpace Suit3.5828157
The White HagBeann Gulban Irish Heather Sour Ale3.531251392
Galway Bay BreweryHeathen3.52151430
DOT BrewSour Cherry Apricot3.465
Boundary BrewingA Berliner Vice #13.4246673
The White HagSearbh Rua Imperial Sour Red3.22847569
IndependentConnemara Cherry Sour3.18595121
Boundary BrewingVilca Weisse3.17520

It's not perfect, but it's a start. This uses some code I wrote to pull the rankings from Untappd and format them into the table you see above. I manually built the list of beers so let me know if I've missed any.

Untappd doesn't aggregate scores for beers with less than ten ratings, so they don't appear on the list. Most with less than ten seem to be duplicates that were probably entered by users who couldn't find the official brewery entry -- which reminds me, if your brewery has a beer (any beer) coming out, it's a good idea to add it to Untappd before release to make sure you get the check-ins in the right place.

Observations on the list itself: as you can see a few Irish breweries dominate in terms of volume, but there are fifteen breweries there in total. In 2015 that would have been no more than three or four, so things are on the up. The other observation is that by and large all these are quick sours. With barrel projects coming on line hopefully we'll see more complex sours in 2017.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

International Stout Day 2016 -
Brewing Murphy's XXX from 1916 - Part 1

A History Lesson

Earlier this year myself, Mark Nixon and Alain Dekoster visited the UCC Library to have a look through the Murphy's Brewery archives. As 2016 is the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, brews from that time were of particular interest -- some Irish micro breweries released "inspired by" products to capitalise on the occasion, but we went in search of the real thing. The archives contain records from around the foundation of the brewery up in 1856 up until when Heineken took them over in 1983. Our thanks go to the staff at the archives for assisting us on the day.

The Beers

In the 1860s Murphy's had the imaginatively named West India, London Extra, London Porter, Extra London, X Beer, № One, Double Stout, and Common Porter (despite the initial excitement about West India possibly being an IPA, it too was a porter), but by the turn of the 1900s Murphy's had simplified their portfolio to just four beers:
  • Murphy's Plain Porter -- OG 1.045, FG 1.015
  • Murphy's X (stout) -- OG 1.049, FG 1.015
  • Murphy's XX (stout) -- OG 1.067, FG 1.019
  • Murphy's XXX (stout) -- OG 1.087, FG 1.0285


XX grist from 1912
Much to my surprise, Murphy's imported a lot of malt from England. At the time there would have been quite a number of Irish maltsters but transport would have been an issue; bulk loads would need to be shifted by rail and more commonly water, and Cork city has an extensive port. The same maltsters appear over and over again in the records of the time:
  • Gilstrap of Newark on Trent (destroyed by fire in 1930)
  • Donegan*, probably Daniel Donegan & Sons, 19 Merchants Quay (offices and/or stores) and 5 (Lower) John Street (maltings), Cork city (right behind the Murphy's brewery)
  • Donegan Chil, barley from Chile malted by Donegan (thanks Ron!)
  • Riverstown, probably the ale brewery and maltings in Glanmire, opened by Denny Lane in the 1800s, and sold to Murphy's Brewery in 1901, according to this.
  • Thurply - while it sounds English, this was misread by me and is actually Murphy (thanks again Ron!)
  • Thorpe, a massive maltster in Essex. Closed in the 1970s. Some nice information here.
  • J J Murphy*, 4 (Lower) John Street, Cork city. 
  • Ao Calif - this is actually do Calif, which means Californian barley malted by the above, in this case Murphy (thanks yet again Ron!)
  • Bairds, still in existence.
XXX grist from 1911
* Donegan and Murphy appear in the same grists, but they may not have existed at the same time. Searching Guy's Cork City & County Almanacs shows both, but never concurrently. E.g. Donegan is in the 1884 Almanac, but not Murphy. Conversely, while Murphy appears in the 1912 Almanac, Donegan does not.

Common to all grists is Black, origin unknown. Only one malster in Ireland was making patent black malt for sale, Plunkett's of Dublin, but it's quite possible, and even more probable that Murphy's did their own roasting as we know Guinness do. And your eyes don't deceive you: there are no speciality malts other than Black in any of the grists!


X hop load 1912
There were no commercial hop farms in Ireland until around 1961, so all hops were imported. It's documented that conventional wisdom at the time in Guinness was that American hops should make up half the hop load, and it's no surprise to see them in Murphy's too. Unlike the exotic names of today's hops, back then they seem to have taken their names simply from where they were grown, or from the person who grew them. Kents show up in the earlier brewing records, but not from around the time.

  • Burley - possibly from this oast house in Rainham, north Kent.
  • Wacher - unknown, possibly also from Kent
  • Oregons -  Emil Clements Horst had one of the biggest hop plantations in the world at the time and was known to be supply Guinness. More here. Maybe he supplied Murphy's as well.
  • Hallertaus -  From the Hallertau region of Germany, a traditional hop growing area.


Brewing was single infusion mash at around 66 to 67°C for 90 minutes with XXX done in smaller batches for which Mash Tun Number 2 was only ever used. Batch sparge at around 71°C. Boil was 90 minutes.


We don't know the origin of Murphy's yeast, but we do know that it was a very poor attenuator, resulting in full bodied, fairly sweet beer. Attenuation of around 66% was typical. The only Irish ale yeasts commercially available are White Labs WLP-004 and Wyeast 1084, which are known to have originated in Guinness (who currently use two yeasts, which strain is used depends on the market) and attenuate slightly better than 66%. Wyeast 1968, White Labs WLP-002 (both apparently from Fuller's of London), and Danstar Windsor, all English ale yeasts, are probably closer to what Murphy's used in attenuation terms. Update: on further discussion with Ron it's entirely possible that Murphy's yeast came from a London-based brewery. While it's possible it's Fuller's there are another number of likely candidates, Whitbread, Truman, Barclay Perkins, Courage, etc.

Calling in the Big Guns

To faithfully reproduce a beer from the archives, we felt we had to enlist the help of beer historian, Ron Pattison. Ron does one of the best beer blogs in existence, Shut Up About Barclay Perkins; check it out if you haven't already. Ron did a trawl through the records, and we discussed it back and forth for a while. This is the resulting recipe for 5 gallons (imperial) of Murphy's XXX:

94% Pale malt
6% Black malt 
Fuggles 90 mins 4.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 4.00 oz (or Willamette)
Hallertau 20 mins 5.00 oz
OG 1089.1, FG 1028.5, ABV 8.02%, apparent attenuation 68.01%
IBU 127, SRM 35
Mash at 153ºF for 90 mins
Sparge at 160ºF
Boil time 90 minutes
Pitching temp 60ºF
Yeast WLP-004 Irish Ale

Yes, that IBU figure required a double take! Ron confirmed that XXX would have been aged, and possibly blended, which would have reduced bitterness. Even though it would have been relatively sweet 127 odd IBU is too bitter!

Coming up in the Part 2, what I brewed, why I brewed it, and how it turned out....

Saturday, 24 September 2016

US beer odyssey part 2 - Reno

Matt behind the bar at Imbib, foeder, and great beer
With sadness I left Utah early on a Monday morning, the 16th of August, sad because I was leaving Salt Lake City, which had been so wonderful to us for the previous few months, but also because I was saying goodbye to my wife and son with whom I had enjoyed all the great experiences Utah had to offer, I was striking out by myself into the great unknown. Over the next two weeks I would drive 2,640 miles, visiting eight cities, and many great beer establishments.

Superb saison
Google maps said it was just over a seven hour drive on I-80 from Salt Lake City to Reno, and nine and a half hours later I arrived at my lodgings, Harrah's Casino Resort Hotel. $36 a night, plus resort fees and taxes, bringing the total to about $54, a bargain by any standards. I had been advised to avoid Reno and hit for Lake Tahoe instead, but combined with the steep prices at Lake Tahoe and my sense for a bargain, Reno was the clear winner. I had googled before I left about brewpub in Reno, and therein I discovered a gem: Imbib. Just a 10 minute walk from my hotel, this is one of Reno's newest (and smallest) brewpubs.

Slightly off the beaten track -- but then Reno's not exactly a beaten track like Vegas is -- I had one of the best beers I've had in the US: Imbib with an Alibi. A saison that has been made from a blend of two brews, one by Imbib themselves, and aged in a white wine barrel, and the other made by Alibi Ale Works (in Tahoe), aged in a red wine barrel. Fermentation involved two yeasts, before the beers were parked for a relatively short time in barrels. The result is spectacular, classically saison, but with some acidic sharpness that was picked up in the barrels. One of only a few beers I've give five to on Untappd.

Beer menu at Imbib
One of the benefits of visiting a small place is you get the personal touch. Matt (Johnson), one of the owners of Imbib was on duty that night, in an unbusy bar, and we got to have a good chat about Imbib and what they're doing. Their current brewkit is very small, between 300 and 400 litres (he speaks barrels, I speak litres, and we weren't sure of the exact conversion). Additionally, they have a number of barrels, and an American made foeder. The foeder is egg shaped and was a first for the manufacturer, which hasn't gone flawlessly. Unlike other foeders I've seen there are no centre braces and as a result it's starting to sag and split in the middle. It's not leaking, or really a big deal, but the manufacturer has guaranteed it and will replace it.

Imbib has five owners, all brewers, and a few others help out in the taproom etc. They all have day jobs too. A bigger brewkit is on order, which will allow them to achieve wider distribution. All the beers are quality (see the menu, right), something I hope doesn't get lost in the upscale.  All are available on draft only, for now, but the new kit will see it in bottles. I expect to hear a lot more from Imbib in the future, definitely a must-see if you're in the Reno area.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Liked Castaway? Good news! Read on

Castaway, the beer that was prototyped in my kitchen and subsequently brewed by myself and Mark Nixon with Delcan down in Yellowbelly, went down so well that we (well, Mark) decided we make it a trilogy of beers in a similar vain.

Can you guess the fruit?
Number 2 in the trilogy, Castaway's successor (currently nameless) is sitting in a tank in Hope Brewery souring away and will be released in around 6 weeks from now. The fruit in this one was somewhat inspired by a beverage I had sitting on my balcony one sunny July morning in Salt Lake City as we chatted over WhatsApp. I won't give it away yet, but have a look at the photo. This combination hasn't been used in an Irish beer before, so we're super excited and a little nervous! We've dialled back the sourness ever so slightly on this one as we feel that it will go with the fruit a bit better. If you're a fan of sour beers, in general, you won't be disappointed -- it's still going to be well puckering!

We brewed 2,000 litres on September 7th in Hope's super shiny new brewery beside Howth Junction DART station, to be released mainly in bottles but also a limited number of kegs, as a Hope product primarily, but it will be co-branded with Yellowbelly and myself.

One of the things I picked up in the US was a 360-degree camera. Embedding 360-degree photos in a blog is not straightforward, but below is a shot of Hope's lovely Caspary brewhouse, with myself, Declan and Mark on the deck. You can pan and zoom with your mouse.

Even more good news is that today (September 9th) Declan is brewing another batch of Castaway, so the two should be available for your drinking pleasure around the same time! :)

Monday, 27 June 2016

Brewing Castaway

Who knew Stone IPA tasted so good on the move
Some of you will know that I've relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the summer. I had the pleasure of writing this piece on the train from Chicago to Salt Lake, a 1400 mile, 41-hour journey across Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, into Denver (Colorado, for a brief stop) and then across the breath-taking Rockies and on to the Promised Land of Utah. It's a trip of a lifetime and one I would recommend to anyone... Amtrak even have decent craft beer on board!

The view as I type. That's our train, snaking along beside the Colorado river
Mark Nixon, the main man at the new and very impressive Hope Brewery, asked me to do a fruit sour with him after the success of Chloe Dancer. Mark (and Niall Maher of the Corkscrew at Kenny's) had tasted Chloe in Kenny's and really enjoyed it. (Though in fairness they had listened to me blowing off about it for long enough too.)

Mark wanted to produce a dry hopped mango and passion fruit sour beer that had the tart fruit sourness of Chloe but also nodded in the direction of Siren's excellent Calypso, and more importantly one that would be zymurgically unrisky, i.e. the yeast was to be US-05. The reason: so that no commercial brewery would be reluctant to brew it. (As you probably know I have almost universally replaced US-05/WLP-001 with WLP-644 in my brewing)

So I brewed a sour base beer, with a grist of around 25% wheat malt and 75% pale. Pre-acidified and then soured for a couple of days with a mixture of pro-biotic lacto caps down to pH 3.3. I made a yeast starter of half-and-half regular wort and soured wort as I didn't want to acid shock the yeast. I suspected the yeast would be fine as I've fermented pH 3.4 apple juice from our cider man Davy with US-05, but I decided I'd not take the chance. Belt and braces as a risk-averse work colleague used to say.

Once fermentation was looking healthy and well under way I handed the batch to Mark for fruiting. I suggested he split it in two and use mango in one half and passion fruit in the other, and then try blending, rather than putting the whole lot in one brew. Two weeks later we tasted the fruits of our efforts (bad pun intended) and concluded that the mango version was a bit whoaaa! Very mango, it probably could have done with one tenth as much purée to be a beer, but was it was it was definitely one of your five-a-day! The passion fruit on the other hand had nods to Chloe and to Calypso, I think the latter was due to dry hopping. But either way we felt we had out beer.

As timing would have it Mark was between breweries (most readers will know Mark was Head Brewer and Master of Recipes at Trouble for two years prior to joining Hope) when he mentioned it to Declan Nixon of Yellow Belly in Wexford, who suggested it be brewed there. The brew day is well photographed and documented on Yellow Belly's website/blog, so I won't go into it again. Needless to say we had a blast: the whole crew at Simon Lambert & Sons made us feel very welcome but special shouts out to Nicky, Seamus and Danny. Gentlemen, one and all.

So I'm not going to give the recipe for Castaway away, but this should land you in the ballpark. Feel free to dial up the passion fruit and sourness for a hardcore experience, dial it back for something closer to what you might have had before. Either way you'll get an enjoyable beer.

Castaway - A sour passionfruit beer

Makes approximately 20 litres (dependent on passion fruit)
Amount Item Type % or IBU
3.00 kg Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (5.9 EBC) Grain 75.00 %
1.00 kg Wheat Malt, Bel (3.9 EBC) Grain 25.00 %
1 Pkgs Your favourite source of lactobacillus Bacteria
1¼ to 2½ kg Passion fruit Purée Yum
1 Pkgs Safale American (DCL Yeast #US-05) Yeast-Ale
20.00 gm Citra [12.00 %] (Dry Hop 3 days) Hops -


  1. The boil is 60 mins before pre acidifying and adding the lactobacillus. Once the lacto has been pitched store at around 30°C for a couple of days. Test for pH and proceed to next step once it has hit 3.6 (sourish) to 3.3 (sour).
  2. Once the pH has been hit you can boil for 15 mins to halt the progress of the lacto. Or you can leave it as is with live lacto, it's up to you. Personally I do the latter at home.
  3. It's a good idea to rehydrate the yeast with some of the sour wort mixed with regular wort to minimise the risk of acid shock.
  4. Once the fermentation is under way, add the passionfruit puree and ferment as normal.
  5. Hopping is optional, maybe mix it up and hop one half but not the other.
At the time of writing Castaway has clocked up 4.22 on Untappd, neck and neck with Chloe Dancer. It's nice to be associated with both :)

Saturday, 28 May 2016

What do The Púca and Chloe Dancer have in common?

March 5th 2016 was Boundary Brewing's first birthday party. For any serious Irish beer lover there was only one place to be: Brewbot in Belfast. The best of the best was on show: a tap take-over featuring Boundary's full range, along with great brews from Simon Lambert & Sons, The White Hag, and Galway Bay.

For me it was the first public outing of my winner of Sourfest 2015, brewed by myself under my good friend Matthew's watchful eye at Boundary, and what a buzz it was. Due to scheduling it didn't go on tap till late in the evening, 9.30pm, by which time John The Beer Nut Duffy was on the last train back to Dublin. Misfortunate as I really wanted John to taste it. Howandever. Taking position on Tap 3 it was a wonderful experience to hear people at the bar say "Tell so-and-so the raspberry sour has gone on" and two hours later it was equally gratifying when Steven Barr, my main man behind the bar, told me "It's all gone". Live fast die young. Since then it went on sale in Glasgow and London where the reception was equally as prompt!

Chloe racked up a healthy 4.32 (currently 4.22) on Untapped once the votes from the launch night were verified, making it one of the highest ranked beers from Ireland.

So to answer the question: What do The Púca and Chloe Dancer have in common? Well, the pre-acidification method I used in Chloe Dancer is also used in An Púca. I find it works very well with fruit sours, but of course Joe used it in his own way and has produced another wonderful beer. Chloe has opened doors for me.... watch this space! #Leviathan

The White Hag's Paul, really digging Chloe
The Púca is fairly widely available as The White Hag's batch size is much bigger than Boundary's. If you see it, buy it, you won't regret it! And Boundary's other beers are as awesome as ever.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Brewing Row 2, Hill 56

Simcoe. A cat pissy, dank, hipster hop that is on nearly every page of BrewDog's DIY Dog. It's impossible to get off contract and even if you do have a contract it may not be entirely fulfilled. Going on BrewDog's published recipes it's easy to see why there might be a shortage: they use a huge quantity.

I was fortunate though to be given quite a lot of Simcoe this year, so much so that I've had to give some of it away in turn. But one thing I wanted to do was a SMaSH, or close to it, that wasn't just stuffed to the balls with hops. It's so easy to give into temptation and shovel them in, but I wanted something more svelte.

Consensus is that Russia River's Row 2 Hill 56 is a damn fine example of a single hop Simcoe pale ale. Deriving its name the row and hill on the hop farm in Yakima where it's grown, it's draught only and only available in the US. So I haven't had it (yet), but that's something I plan to rectify shortly. The recipe below is drawn from a number of internet sources.

20 litres. Single infusion mash at 66°C for one hour, and boiled for one hour. Cleared with gelatin.

Amount Item Type % or IBU
2.90 kg Lager Malt (MCI) (3.9 EBC) Grain 60.66 %
1.56 kg Pale Malt (2 Row) (Castle) (5.9 EBC) Grain 32.63 %
0.32 kg Cara-Pils/Dextrine (3.9 EBC) Grain 6.70 %
14.00 gm Simcoe [13.00 %] (60 min) Hops 21.2 IBU
14.00 gm Simcoe [13.00 %] (30 min) Hops 16.3 IBU
26.00 gm Simcoe [13.00 %] (0 min) Hops -
50.00 gm Simcoe [13.00 %] (Dry Hop 10 days) Hops -
0.26 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min) Misc
1 Pkgs Safale American (DCL Yeast #US-05) Yeast-Ale
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.056 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.056 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.015 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
Estimated ABV: 5.30 % Actual ABV: 5.74 %
Bitterness: 37.4 IBU Calories: 526 cal/l
Est Color: 8.4 EBC Color:

Tasting Notes

Crystal clear thanks to gelatin with excellent retention and lacing. An unexpected and wonderfully delicate hop aroma and flavour with none of the cat-pissy dankness I've come to associate with the likes of Simcoe, Galaxy, Citra and a couple of others. If you're looking for a simple sessionable hoppy pale ale, this is it.